Politicians and Burglars

April 4, 2012 09:27

I would rate the politician as more harmful than the burglar. Perhaps politicians would rate more favorably against pedophiles, rapists and murderers.


By Monty Pelerin


Fear and frustration regarding America plague more than half the country. Families regularly cut back to accommodate shrinking incomes. The current Congress and Administration, like recent predecessors, never consider that as an option. When things get tough for the small people, that is just another excuse for the political elite to increase their spending and their power.

Whether they politicians get the funds by increasing the tax burden on citizens or they print money matters little. Higher taxes means less income available to purchase goods. Printing money means higher prices of goods, effectively reducing the amount of goods that can be purchased. The net is virtually the same either way — citizens get poorer and government gets bigger.

As people increasingly face reduced standards of living and connect the dots to this sophisticated form of political theft their opinions of politicians shrinks. The current distrust and disgust toward politicians has never been so intense. A recent survey showed them registering at the very bottom against other occupations:


Clearly the public does not trust its leaders. The political class increasingly does not care. Surely they would prefer to be more popular, but not if it infringed on their own objectives. Their comfort is more important than conforming to the wishes of constituents. In a very real sense, we may have attained the wrong side of the dichotomy that Thomas Jefferson described:

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.

People may disagree that we have reached the tyranny stage yet.  But there likely would be close to universal agreement that we no longer meet the second part of Mr. Jefferson’s dichotomy. Does anyone believe that government fears the people? If so, how do they explain the deliberate continuance of behavior that has produced such dislike and distrust? When government ignores the wishes of the people it is clear government has no fear of the people.

For those who argue there is no tyranny, let them define some third classification which Mr. Jefferson did not provide for. Would it be some intermediate political purgatory, sort of a waiting stage for tyranny?

Politicians are held in lower regard than any other occupation, even the ones most maligned. But perhaps the comparisons are unfair. Increasingly people are viewing political behavior as corrupt and criminal. Perhaps the proper comparison would be to measure politicians against illegitimate occupations.

What if politicians were polled against criminal activities like burglars or drug dealers or bank robbers? Would political activities out poll truly criminal activities? It certainly would represent an interesting poll. From an economist’s point of view, there is case to be made that politicians would lose.

Let’s take a look, for example, at a burglar. Fortunately few of us have experienced a burglary. If you have, it is a scary and demeaning event, even if you did not encounter the perpetrator. Your property was violated. The place you felt most secure, your house or apartment, will never feel the same again. You will always worry about it recurring. Will he come back? What if you are home this time? Will you be safe there or should you relocate? There are serious emotional issues cannot be quantified.

Presumably you have also been damaged with loss of possessions. These can be quantified and likely replaced. This part of the experience is generally the least harmful. It costs you money that you shouldn’t have to spend, but it is a one-time event. The monetary damages may be large or small but they are unlikely to exceed a few months of your earnings.

Now contrast that experience with the cost of supporting politicians. It is estimated that the total take to support governments at all levels exceeds 40% of GDP. For you as an individual, it means that about five months of your income is taken from you every year. Unlike the burglar, this take occurs again and again for as long as you work. It continues when you have no income in the form of property, sales and other taxes. Finally it stops with death and death taxes.

To be fair, there is value provided for the taxes. Roads are maintained (sort of), police exist to investigate crimes after the fact, a court system mediates disputes, schools are funded, etc. etc. It is not unreasonable to say that none of these functions are performed efficiently or effectively. That is, private enterprise would provide them better and at lower cost. But that is not the real theft that government represents. You are paying multiples for the value of the services you receive. Think about how much you could buy with an extra five months of income. Do you think you are getting your money’s worth by giving this money up for the services received? Even those who believe in the necessity of an expansive government have trouble answering in the affirmative.

Whatever the difference is between the value of services you receive and the amount you pay in total taxes has been coerced from you in the same manner that the burglar entered into a transaction with you that you did not agree to. When viewed in these terms, I would rate the politician as more harmful than the burglar.

Perhaps politicians would rate more favorably against pedophiles, rapists and murderers.


“Monty Pelerin” is a pseudonym derived from The Mont Pelerin Society. The writer has no connection with the Society (other than coincidence of philosophy). Nothing said by me should be considered to be representative of the views of the Mont Pelerin Society or any of its members. “Monty Pelerin”  blogs at Monty Pelerin’s World

Help Make A Difference By Sharing These Articles On Facebook, Twitter And Elsewhere: